Drying and curing cannabis takes a lot of space and time. These are important steps in the process of bringing a hemp plant from harvest to the retail shelf. Growers generally use wire shelving systems to ensure a quality drying process, essential for obtaining the best yield possible from each plant.
These critical steps can make the difference between a good profit or a loss.
Hemp producers first trim the plant to remove any excess leaves. Then growers use one of three methods to cut the plant for drying: removing branches, cutting at the base and leaving the plant intact, or removing the individual buds. The branches or entire plant can be hung from racks or laid on trays like the individual buds.
Consideration for Drying
If the plant does not dry properly and relatively quickly, mold and mildew will ruin the crop. The area chosen for drying needs good air circulation and low humidity. Large operations rely on dehumidifiers and fans to help with the drying process.
Drying the Whole Plant and Branches
For hemp production used in textiles, rope, and plastics, growers usually dry the plant stems and branches by hanging them from wire mesh. It is important to clip the plants to the racks in a manner that leaves about a centimeter of space between each to help promote drying.
Most growers lay the buds on the wire mesh racks in rows though some also hang them upside down while still attached to the stems, depending on preference.
Buds should never touch each other as that inhibits drying and can help harmful microbes grow quicker.
What Shelving to Use for Drying
In the old days, pre-legalization of marijuana that first started in Colorado, renegade marijuana growers would dry buds using paper bags or cardboard.
Hemp growers, those using the hemp plant for products and not ingestibles, use wire racks.
Today, most growers use industrial metal racks.
Other ways of drying can include drying buds in paper bags or even laying them out on cardboard. Just make sure that if you’re laying your buds on something flat like cardboard, you realize that it can create wet spots, and will leave an imprint on the sides of your buds where they touched the flat surface.
Stainless steel, especially if the farmer grows edible or ingestible hemp plants, has several properties that make it very suitable for drying the buds.
Food warehouses use stainless steel racks due to the lack of chemicals that could leech into the plants, fruit, or vegetables.
Stainless steel also is very durable and easy to clean. In a moist or wet environment, stainless steel resists rust or corrosion.
Polymers and epoxy have similar characteristics desired by cannabis growers.
Optimal Relative Humidity
Drying hemp works best when the relative humidity is kept between 45-50%
If the RH falls under about 30%, for buds, the process may go too fast and make them too brittle affecting the potency, while over 60% humidity risks mold.
Curing refers to a continuation of the drying process, similar to letting wine age, and is more relevant to buds and ingestibles than other types of hemp products.
During curing, the drying continues to spread slowly deep within the buds, ensuring an even, thorough drying.
Growers take care to ensure the buds don’t get too dry and crumble to the touch as this affects the potency and THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, with the psychoactive properties.
According to users, the taste and fresh-cut hay smell of the buds improves and is removed, providing a better experience.
Careful curing helps improve the length of time producers can store the product.